Why our thoughts are the cause of our problems? – Our freedom lies in the ability to control our own minds.

Epictetus, the stoic philosopher, once said, “we cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them.”

According to Epictetus , by cultivating mindful awareness of our thoughts and choosing to view situations with rationality, we can exert control over our emotions and guide our behaviour in a more purposeful direction. Many of our problems are a result of interpreting events in unhelpful ways.

The key message of CBT is that the way we think (our cognitions) and what we do (our behaviour) affects the way we feel.

Thoughts are not facts:

Not all of the thinking that happens in our heads is slow, careful or accurate. We all have automatic thoughts that happen so quickly and effortlessly, that we might not even be aware we've had them. Sometimes our brains generate results that are not completely accurate. When we assume they are true, we feel strong emotions such as fear, anger or sadness and can react severely. Sometimes we might jump to the worst possible conclusion, at other times we might blame ourselves for things that are not our fault.

Automatic thoughts are often based on assumptions and exaggerated by certain biases which are called cognitive distortions or unhelpful thinking styles.

Here are 10 of the most common cognitive distortions:

  • All or nothing thinking: Sometimes called “black and white” thinking. You think in extremes about situations or yourself. Things are either “perfect” or “terrible”.
  • Magnification and minimization: You exaggerate negative aspects of yourself, other people, or situations, while undermining the positive aspects. Imperfections are exaggerated while achievements are made to seem unimportant.
  • Disqualifying the positive: Discounting the positive, making excuses for it can leave us feeling low. Receiving positive feedback might feel strange to you or difficult to accept, so you automatically reject it.
  • Mental filter: You base your conclusions on a single detail taken out of context, ignoring other bits of information. Focusing on your failures while overlooking successes.
  • Emotional reasoning: You assume something must be true because you feel it strongly, “I feel embarrassed, so I must be an idiot”.
  • Overgeneralisation: You believe that a single event or experience will inevitably recur as a pattern in the future.
  • Jumping to conclusions: You imagine and predict that bad things are going to happen to you. Anticipating the worst in situations or people can lead to us feeling anxious.
  • Personalizing: Blaming yourself or taking responsibility for something that wasn't completely your fault which leads to inappropriate guilt.
  • Labelling: You give yourself, other people, all your experiences a one-word label, these are usually extreme and negative. “I am hopeless”, “I am completely useless”, are all negative labels.
  • “Should” statements: You have rigid beliefs about how things, people, or the world should be, imposing unrealistic expectations.

Do you recognize yourself in any of these biases?

Are these thoughts helpful to you?

Are they going to help you achieve your goals?

Rate your behaviour but never rate yourself!

My aim is not for you to think happy thoughts but rather to foster accurate thinking . However, when unhelpful thinking styles are present in our lives to an excessive degree, they can have a profound effect on our emotional wellbeing.

Unless we learn to notice cognitive distortions, they can have powerful yet invisible effects on our moods and our lives.

What evidence do you have for believing that this thought is true?

As part of my Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy treatment for anxiety management, Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapy treatment for anxiety management, I will assist you in identifying, challenging and overcoming “unhelpful thinking style” through a diverse range of evidence based techniques.
Contact me to find out more and discuss your individual needs: sarra@freeourmind.co.uk

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